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Message In A Bottle

Normally when CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman sets off on his quest to prove Everybody Has A Story, he's guided by the throw of a dart. This time, he found his subject in an unconventional fashion; he found a message in a bottle, which led him to a West Virginia woman looking for some closure.

It was fate that brought Hartman to Ona, W.Va. - and chance that introduced him to 62-year-old Loretta Cooper, who was darning more clothes for her darned family.

"Sometimes I say, 'Don't you have a thread and needle?"' she tells Hartman. "I don't do socks."

But unlike the subjects of all his other stories in this series, he didn't find this random subject with a dart and blind stab at the phone book. Instead, he found her - in the sand.

It all began on Waikiki Beach. Hartman had come to Honolulu to speak to the Hawaiian Association of Broadcasters and was walking along the beach when he came across a message in a bottle.

It was quite possibly the lamest message in a bottle ever discovered. Just a Post-It Note in a plastic aspirin bottle - a cracked plastic aspirin bottle.

"I may not have had the right kind of bottle," Cooper says examining the bottle. "It must have done that in the water."

Cooper threw the bottle in the water - and Hartman found it a few days later on the sand on a crowded beach.

"It could have hit on a rock or something," says Cooper. "During it's long voyage down five hotels!"

Because of the saltwater breach, the Post-It was already in pieces. So Hartman took a blow dryer, put the puzzle back together and discovered a woman as torn up as the note itself.

With the note back in her hands, Cooper reads, "In honor of my sister, Clara Chapman, who passed away on Jan. 15 of this year.

"I wish you were on this trip with me.

"Love, your sister."

Loretta and Clara Cooper had been best friends for more half a century.

"She went everywhere I went and I went everywhere she went," Cooper says. "I just felt like I lost everything when I lost her."

Loretta Cooper had already lost her mom the year before, her dad the year before that and her husband the year before that. But Cooper says her sister's death was the hardest by far - simply because she died so suddenly.

"Because I didn't get to tell her goodbye. And that hurt an awful lot," Cooper says. "I felt by just throwing this out in the bottle that maybe she would know I sent it."

At some point or another, whether we say it in a seance or a prayer or a Post-It note, almost all of us feel the need to have that one last conversation.

"I've made peace with it now - I've made peace with it," Cooper says.

And although her bottle didn't go far, her message certainly has now.

"My message went all over this world, and out of this world and everywhere. And I feel good about that," she says. "I feel really good about it."

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